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Jenkins named new ETSU volleyball coach

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Jan 15, 2019 at 5:04 PM

Sporting a championship pedigree as a player and more success on the sidelines, Benavia Jenkins was named the new East Tennessee State volleyball coach during a Tuesday morning press conference.

Jenkins, a two-time All-American middle blocker at the University of Florida, was part of the 2003 Gators team that reached the national championship. She has spent the last three seasons as an assistant at South Florida.

Her record, including stints at Coastal Carolina and Santa Fe College, is 111-55 as an assistant coach. She was sold on ETSU after talking to those around campus with the words they expressed for university president Brian Noland and athletic director Scott Carter.

“I felt like this was the perfect opportunity for me to be a head coach. I did other interviews, but ETSU felt like the right fit,” Jenkins said. “There is a lot of passion about the university and you hear the people on campus talk highly of the president and the athletic director, it was like, ‘These are people I want to work for.’ That put me over the top and I look forward to continuing to grow this program.”

As a player, Jenkins was part of Mary Wise’s Gators teams, which went 127-12 over her four years with a 72-0 record in Southeastern Conference play. They reached consecutive Final Fours in 2002-03 and finished runner-up to Southern California in the 2003 national championship match.

After graduation, Jenkins played professionally for nine years with stints in Spain, Austria, Turkey and Switzerland. She was inducted into the University of Florida Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017.

She began a coaching career at Lincoln Park Academy (Fla.) in 2012 and was the founder of the A-Vaneb Volleyball Academy. As an assistant coach at USF in 2018, the school made its first postseason appearance in 16 years.

“Coach Jenkins brings a wealth of competitive experience to our program as both a coach and player,” Carter said. “The accolades she has accumulated in her career are incredible — from her collegiate and professional success to the wins she has compiled as an assistant coach. Most impressive is the principled focus and passion she has for the sport of volleyball.”

Jenkins takes over an ETSU program that made back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances in 2017-18 under coach Lindsey Devine. The Bucs are coming off a 28-win season, their highest total since 2003. The new coach talked about the excitement of taking over a successful program. 

“We lost five seniors, but we’re bringing in seven freshmen,” Jenkins said. “It’s a different year, but I’m excited to take on this challenge. I’m not coming here to rebuild a program. We want to continue growing the legacy these young ladies have already built.”

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